Supporter to Reporter (S2R) provides learning opportunities for young people to take on the roles of sports journalists, media producers, and mentors. S2R Medals will recognize and reward the skills and achievements gained by young reporters who learn and demonstrate a rich array of competencies acquired through their participation in the program.
This Example tracks how Supporter to Reporter integrated digital badges compliant with Mozilla’s Open Badges Infrastructure into their program. This analysis is provided by the Badges Design Principles Documentation Project by Indiana University.
Supporter To Reporter, an existing program developed by DigitalMe in the UK, participated in the Digital Media & Learning competition focused on Badges for Lifelong Learning. S2R won a grant from the MacArthur Foundation to implement Mozilla OBI-compliant digital badges in support of its educational objectives, helping young people to learn skills required in sports journalism and apply them in their communities.
“Badges allow us to capture these competencies in a way we have never been able to previously, allowing young people to create an online portfolio of their work to share with colleges and employers. S2R uses the safe Makewaves Open Learning community to run the program and connect schools across the UK.” (HASTAC Q&A)
“We created a badge ecosystem based on the existing S2R learning program and will launch the badges into the Makewaves community of over 3500 schools and 60,000 learners worldwide. We expect the main take-up to be with youth ages 10 - 14 years old.” The development process for the S2R Badge system “is organized around (1) learning by doing, (2) collaboration, and (3) not making assumptions.” (HASTAC Q&A)
This Example Seed describes how S2R originally intended to use digital badges to recognize and reward learning by their young participants. The purpose is to develop a program where students record interviews, produce videos and articles, and earn badges for reporting, producing, and mentoring others. The intended practices below reflect the DPD project’s analysis of Supporter To Reporter’s original thinking about implementing badges.
By implementing badges, Supporter to Reporter aims to recognize skills with transferable and long-term value, such as journalism and mentoring. A medal from the program should allow students to showcase their achievements as they apply to colleges and jobs:
“We expect S2R medals to feature on CVs and college and job applications, giving them worth and durability. Whilst S2R Medals use sports journalism as a learning framework, they demonstrate skills which have direct relevance to any workplace or educational establishment.” (DPD Project interview)
The project emphasizes that the skills they recognize are not tied strictly to journalism and that the medals embody some more general achievements as well: “Young people who take part in the program demonstrate increased confidence, aspiration and transferable skills that they can take into the world of work.” (HASTAC Q&A)
The goals for the badge program are:
- To motivate/incentivize/challenge students to learn something new independently via the Makewaves platform.
- To provide an easy and appropriate way for students to capture their learning and share it across the web.
- To enable any school to replicate the successful S2R program in their own setting and deliver a quality learning experience to their young people.
S2R hopes to make it easy for school leaders to join the Makewaves platform and start recognizing the achievements of their students. An example of a school that has thoroughly integrated with the Makewaves platform and now S2R is Catmose College. Their site profile shows active support of students and organization of the S2R badges.
“S2R Medals are designed primarily for young people ages 11-19. However, younger students can also complete badge activity if capable. To enable this audience we also addressed teachers, after school program facilitators and regional coordinators for sports and media provision for youth.” (HASTAC Q&A)
Supporter To Reporter is designed so that schools and supplemental education providers like after-school programs can implement the challenges, assess student achievement, and integrate with the Makewaves social platform to award badges and build learner e-portfolios.
Supporter To Reporter’s badge program is documented by the Badges Design Principles Documentation Project at Indiana University. This research project tracks badge systems' intended designs, enacted practices, and those formalized principles that endured through the program and are represented by the continuing practices after the initial grant-funded run of the badge program.
This phase describes in detail the practices S2R intended to use for their badge program.
INTENDED PRACTICES FOR THE STUDENT TO REPORTER BADGE SYSTEM:
S2R intends its Journalist, Producer, and Coach medals to provide significant value to signal higher education providers and future employers about skills developed by badge earners.
Students must pass through basic levels of achievement before being considered for higher awards. Badges are leveled (bronze, silver, gold) and are available in three categories (journalist, producer, and coach). More about the specific medals.
Integration into Existing Curriculum
The S2R badge program recognizes students for the work the existing S2R program seeks to promote. The pre-existing curriculum structured the creation and use of badges for this project, which allows for quick start-up.
S2R opts to use badges without a set expiration, because they feel the skills the program teaches apply broadly to students' future careers, journalistic or not. They hope S2R medals will have a high value to students, and the badges' permanence reflects the desire for students to value them for years. (DPD Project Interview)
Badge Relevance to Career
The project aims to provide experience and credentials, which despite their sports reporting focus are transferrable to non-journalism careers: ”All the S2R badges are designed to reflect real-world transferable skills, including social media creation, reporting, interviewing, editing, time management, collaboration, responsibility, motivation, and mentoring others.” (HASTAC Q&A)
Peer Awarded Badges
As mentoring is a specific goal to support, S2R hopes to include peers as awarders of accomplishments, though not the OBI-compliant medals, in order to maintain prestige of the higher awards.
Supporter To Reporter hopes to work with external partners to gain official endorsement of their badges.
S2R Medals learners create and collect artifacts in an e- portfolio that is open for comments from both the learning community and the broader community of family, friends, and the public. The feedback that comes from these communities members directly impacts revision and the quality of the artifacts that are ultimately formally assessed by the acting teacher using a rubric.
Supporter To Reporter initially proposed a 4-tier hierarchy for each strain, integrating mentoring with the other skills as the top level: “Reporters progress through the programme, gain new skills and experiences, take on new responsibilities and push themselves. The journey has four levels:
Level 1: Gaining and demonstrating competency (content production)
Level 2: Using skills (interviewing, reporting and publishing)
Level 3: Understanding the workplace (reporting for real)
Level 4: Mentoring others”
(S2R DML Proposal)
The provision of online portfolios to students is an important aspect of the S2R program and use of the Makewaves platform, which allows for portfolio review as assessment: “Every S2R participant has their personal Reporter Page on www.makewav.es/s2r. This serves as an e-portfolio and permits their educators, supporters, friends, family and peers to see and evaluate their work.” (S2R DML Proposal)
An example profile page, showing a student’s badges, recent artifacts and most popular content. Identity is somewhat protected from the general public.
Badges are Validated by Experts, a Computer Scoring System, and Peers
Assessment is mostly left to participating schools, but some activity is automatically counted upon upload to the Makewaves site.
Indirect Standards Alignment
Because assessment is mostly up to local teachers, there is already a large community of teachers within the Make Waves community who are mapping the S2R curriculum to their own objectives and standards. (DPD Project Interview)
Rubrics Are Used to Assess Artifacts
S2R notes some challenges to assessment, particularly that “Live reporting can only be assessed by practitioners present at the activity, due to the complexity of skills demonstrated.” (S2R DML Proposal) Rubrics are planned to assist teachers.
Through the S2R Medals program, students can get a glimpse at what it is like to be a journalist in the sporting world. Badges are intended to guide students along the path from novice to mentor, enabling advanced students to become a source of peer assessment for newer students. Accumulated badges will also make it possible for students to gain other privileges, such as access to cover more prestigious events (not just local events). Therefore, we can see badges in this project as leading students to develop mastery skills and the privilege of being able to cover prestigious events is what those skills are built for; badges are simply a reflection of skills mastered, not the reward that motivates students to gain competency in skills. The initiative is especially cognizant of the need for limit the amount of badges that are given out (the badge creators refer to this as badge "scarcity"); this limited number of badges awarded ensures their value both among students and the working world.
Role Recognition/Community Engagement
Supporter To Reporter intends that badges will motivate earners by recognizing key roles played in a community: "S2R Medals recognise the three main S2R roles - journalist, live reporter and peer mentor. Students can pursue their strengths and interest in one of these roles, or develop skills in an unfamiliar or new role. For example, a student may achieve a Gold in journalism whilst remaining at Bronze in coaching. Alternatively, they may aim for Silver in each set. We want to offer flexible learning paths that reflect and support students’ needs.” (DPD Project Interview)
The project uses limited access to special opportunities as a motivator: “S2R provides prestigious live reporting opportunities for students who have completed training. Badges will give us a clear system for allocating these opportunities.” (DPD Project Interview) The privileges awarded to the best performers should motivate students to participate and work hard.
Hierarchical Use of Badges
The badge hierarchy, with its relation to sports medals in precious metal, should motivate learners.
See how these principles were implemented on the Sprout tab...
Supporter To Reporter’s badge program is documented by the Badge Design Principles Documentation Project at Indiana University. This research project tracks badge system’s intended designs, enacted practices, and those formalized principles that endured through the program and are represented by the continuing practices after the initial grant-funded run of the badge program. These practices are specific context-sensitive implementations of the principles identified by the DPD Project.
This phase describes in detail the practices enacted as S2R implemented their badge program. It aims to point out how these practices evolved from the initial design stage.
ENACTED PRACTICES FOR THE STUDENT TO REPORTER BADGE SYSTEM:
Credentialing Practices for Recognizing Learning
Collaborators are interested in badges but the value remains still at the local level. The next goal is to link with local universities and employers. There is already a collaborative process around the activities which are being badged and how meaningful the resulting badges will be. The project is putting a lot of effort into ensuring the badges will have external value, especially noting that the skills developed are not exclusive to journalism. (DPD Project Interview)
Levels and categories are still there but activities for the strands have been refined, particularly to include more of a face-to-face aspect. More skills are being identified for recognition in each category through the "design days" that occurred with educators and students over the summer. Some changes aimed to make the program more compatible with an in-school environment, and the coach strand now has more appropriate skills filled in.
Integration into Existing Curriculum
As anticipated, the badges design process was easier because S2R already had a pre-existing curriculum that was successful.
As intended, S2R Badges are awarded without an expiration date. The project felt that how long a student could display a badge should be up to that student. On S2R's end, medals will be permanent, but earners can choose to claim and display or hide at will depending on their beliefs about how relevant the badges are as their goals develop.
Badge Relevance to Career
A lot of the work is online even though the actual interviewing is usually occurring offline. Supporter To Reporter built the program to be about developing life skills, not only journalist skills. To help students broaden their experience S2R is interested in linking with other projects to aid the discovery of learning opportunities (i.e. you completed badge "x"; you might be interested in these badges: "y" and "z").
Peer Awarded Badges
As planned, peer awarded "community achievements" are given by credentialed peers and these are not pushed to the OBI. S2R is exploring an expanded role for peer assessments involving the coaching strand of medals.
When assigning value to the badges they received, students seemed to discount the value of the peer-awarded badges: “Students also preferred to receive badges from ‘experts’ rather than peers. Experts ranked in order of preference would be external/industry, teachers, Makewaves, other students who had already achieved the badge or proved their expertise in some form.” (q&a)
Supporter To Reporter has various partner organizations in the sports and media world. From conversations about endorsing S2R’s badge program, it appears third parties want to see evidence of what badges do/why they should care before they buy into the badges system.
Badges for Educators
This was not an intended practice in S2R’s badge design, but they are now developing badges to recognize for teachers for their willingness to learn and use these new activities as well as engaging in assessing these activities for the sake of badges. Educators using the program in their classes can earn special educator badges that are different from the student badges.
The badges still have levels of bronze, silver, and gold, but what constitutes each level of badge is being further defined and refined, though the specifics are often still up to the teachers involved in the direct assessment.
Rather than just being a place to display work, learners can comment on the portfolios via the Makewaves platform and an iPhone app.
Badges are Validated by Experts, a Computer Scoring System, and Peers
Some badges are awarded automatically for turning in a certain number of stories or artifacts, while others are awarded by high school teachers or college faculty. Teachers assess their own students, awarding them badges as they deem fit. Peer assessment continues development in the form of the "coaching" strand. S2R "[uses] this distributed model to allow each participant to be judged according to criteria set by people who know them and give ongoing support." (S2R DML Proposal)
Indirect Standards Alignment
There is already a large community of teachers within the Make Waves community who are mapping the S2R curriculum to their own objectives and standards.
Rubrics Are Used to Assess Artifacts
Rubrics are still being used to assess artifacts, but those rubrics are being further refined to reflect which skills are important and how they should be assessed.
Student To Reporter published more detailed descriptions of the work needed to earn each level of badge, from broad descriptions of each badge (for example Gold Journalist) and badge strand (Journalist, Producer, and Coach) to assessment rubrics.
A portion of an example rubric showing the combination of activities that lead to a particular medal:
Role Recognition/Community Engagement
Supporter To Reporter had hoped students would explore the roles of Journalist, Producer, and Coach. They found that S2R had successfully established the Makewaves site as a space to occupy a professional role and that badge earners enjoyed sharing their achievements there: "The young people we're working with, we've got a trust relationship built with them. They see Makewaves as professional space, just as school is a learning space. It's a positive that they want to share their badges on Makewaves. Some people see it as a negative that they don't want to share it on Facebook...but that's just the nature of how they use Facebook, rather than the badge itself or the sharing of it." (DPD Project Interview)
The badge system was useful in helping partners select motivated young people to join their limited special opportunities, like reporting on live matches: "With organizations like the Scotch Football Association and the local rugby club, we can say, 'Well, if students have achieved these badges, can they come report on your match? So that becomes a motivator and a chance to assess their skills within that setting as well.'"
Hierarchical Use of Badges
S2R’s specialized hierarchy that encourages skill development across the Journalist, Producer, and Coach strands allows the project to give advanced privileges only to those learners with the understanding necessary to use them. The rules of the hierarchy have become more clear as badges have begun to be awarded and badge-specific assessment rubrics developed.
For example, a student must, “show that they've got the skills before they can be enabled as a coach. In order to actually give out badges, which is a higher role, they need to have gone through much more of the program and be given the Senior Reporter label. This is something that has to be given out by a teacher." Thus, on participating schools’ individual sections of the S2R site, Students can engage in peer assessment after having been awarded that privilege by teachers.
Scarcity of Badges
This principle did not appear in initial design documentation but became an important part of the project, especially as the possibilities of offering limited access to special privileges developed: “If we want badges to unlock an opportunity, such as going to the Olympics, a university, or a workplace, there's only so much of those around. It becomes false advertising to say, 'Anyone who gets this badge gets this.'" S2R also noted that scarcity helps keep up the program's reputation, preserving the value of the badges.
Research and Evaluation Practices
Like most of the DML awardees, S2R did not initially cite plans to study their badge program. However, some of the data generated in the course of issuing and hosting badges can be used to analyze how the badge program functioned: “When partnering with research teams, MakeWaves will be able to provide data regarding e-portfolios and other sources, providing rich evidence and feedback. Pilot studies will also provide data on use of badges.”
See how these practices started in the planning phase on the Seed tab...
See the formal observations this project drew and their enduring understanding relating these project-specific practices to the general principles of badge design on the Bloom tab...
The badges have been designed with a view to endorsement by media and sports industry bodies. Criteria has been designed to meet the needs of:
- Core curriculum for teachers
- Work/college readiness skills for colleges and employers
- Interest areas and common media skills for young people.
Main badge system:
The badge system is designed around the identities of the roles students want to fill. The badge system is hierarchical, and students must earn bronze in all three categories before they can earn silver in any. (iudpd) These designs represent the strong visual branding of S2R and are visually compatible with Makewaves.
The community achievements are generated within the Makewaves system based on online activity.
The project refined community achievement images to make them more compatible with the flatter S2R branding.
This image also shows how many of each of these categories were awarded by July 2013.
Refined community achievements for S2R Story, S2R Featured, and S2R Promoter
Supporter To Reporter’s badge program is documented by of the Badges Design Principle Project at Indiana University. This research project tracks badge systems’ intended designs, enacted practices, and those formalized principles that endured through the program and are represented by the continuing practices after the initial grant-funded run of the badge program. These practices are specific context-sensitive implementations of the principles identified by the DPD Project.
This phase covers how the practices enacted in the S2R program reflect the broader principles of badge system design identified as part of the DPD Project and will describe how this badge system evolved in relation to these principles after the DML competition-funded phase of the project ended.
FORMAL PRINCIPLES FOR THE FUTURE OF THE STUDENT TO REPORTER BADGE SYSTEM:
The practices S2R implemented in the course of developing the OBI-compliant medals and Makewaves community achievements were designed to fit the context of the program, in this case an existing curriculum with established goals and developing partnerships with schools and sports organizations that have most of the direct contact with students. The DPD team has situated these practices within general principles across four categories: recognizing learning, assessing learning, motivating learning, and studying learning.
Practices and Corresponding Principles for Recognizing Learning
Contextual factor: Integration into Existing Curriculum. The existence of an established curriculum prior to the implementation of S2R’s digital badges informed all the choices about which learning the program would recognize.
External Recognition, Badge Endorsement - Seek external backing of credential: externally valued. These two practices map to the principle the DPD team identified as “Seek external backing of credential.” From the beginning, S2R aimed to create a badge system that would recognize skills and experience valued by both journalism organizations and generally across many careers. Their work toward gaining formal recognition of their badges is a continuing and formal effort for the project. See challenges below for a detailed discussion focused on challenges to gaining formal recognition for digital badge pioneers like S2R.
Badge Hierarchy - Use Badges to map learning trajectory: provide routes or pathways. Supporter 2 Reporter designed and implemented a complex badge hierarchy that recognized both deep experience in strands of journalistic work but also breadth across learning the skills of journalists, producers, and mentors. It defines routes through journalistic competencies that require collaboration and practicing a variety of different tasks. See the challenges section below for a detailed account of how S2R confronted the difficulties involved with building and supporting a complex leveled badge system. In order to ensure that the system would continue to thrive, S2R spent considerable effort designing tools and resources to support the teachers implementing the program.
Permanence - Make credential permanent: never expires. Supporter To Reporter thought through the audience for its students’ badges and aimed to recognize learning that would say something meaningful about the students for a long time, as they sought higher education opportunities and careers. The badges do not expire in order to enable students to display them as long as they are useful. Through the Makewaves platform, there is a long-term commitment to the validity of the badges.
Badge Relevance to Career - Use badges as a means of external communication of learning. S2R exemplifies this principle through its efforts to speak publicly and to partners about the skills that participating students are developing. Through conversations with potential endorsing partners, they try to find what these parties need to know in order to recognize the value of the badge. The current continuing practice through the 2013-14 school year will include partnership with local sports organizations offering the S2R program: “the aim is to explore how some of those value pathways could work, and get some case studies of that working” (DPD Bloom Interview).
Peer Awarded Badges - Credentialed by both external accredited entity and community. S2R planned to implement peer awarded badges from the initial planning stages and remains committed to eventually allowing its highest-awarded students to play a role in the recognizing process. The organizers and participating teachers have to wait until a group of students progresses to the highest level in order to make it possible (DPD Bloom Interview).
The DPD project categorized this as a sub-principle of "have experts issue badges," recognizing that to the extent that their peers move toward "expert" level, they become more qualified to recognize learning themselves. It is clear from S2R's reluctance to grant peers the ability to issue the most valuable badges in the system that they felt strongly about the appeal of expert-issued badges. S2R confirmed students’ preference for expert-issued badges interviews, but noted that students “don’t mind getting a badge off a peer if they feel their peer has achieved a high enough level to be credible” (DPD Bloom Interview).
Badges for Educators - Recognize educator learning as well. S2R found that teachers were just as interested in earning badges as their young students. Their practice to recognize educator learning sprung up later in the process of building the badge system than many other principles, but the team now feels it is an important part of supporting their participating teachers’ professional development: “There’s as much value to be had for educators as for young people, in terms of lifelong learning.” S2R plans to issue badges to educators through local partner sports centers that administer the program.
Practices and Corresponding Principles for Assessing Learning
Leveled Badges - Use leveled badge systems: Hierarchical Categories. S2R’s leveled badge system implicated assessment design as well. As students move up the levels from bronze to gold, they progress from automated electronic assessment, to assessment by their teachers, to requiring a S2R staff member to verify their work for the highest tier medals. As discussed below in the challenges, S2R confronted this complex system design problem by dedicating a lot of effort to developing support resources for students, teachers and staff to help them perform assessment.
E-Portfolios - Use E-Portfolios: Open to Public and Foster Discussion around Artifacts. As with many projects, using e-portfolios has been central to S2R’s assessment methods. When awarding badges, teachers may pick out particular pieces of evidence to attach to a badge, or might link to the portfolio as a whole. The video, audio and text reportage, which makes up a student’s portfolio is open and public, although learners identities are obscured behind usernames to protect the privacy of the younger participants. The evidence attached to badges is then available to reference. Social features, Comments, and Likes are integrated into the Makewaves platform, and an elusive Golden Heart badge whose exact requirements are secret keeps students looking for more interaction with their stories. Seeing the number of students posting more articles expressly to gain the Golden Heart, Cliff Manning of Makewaves believes “Any badge system should have a mythic top level” (DPD Bloom Interview).
Badges are Validated by Experts, a Computer Scoring System, and Peers - Judged by a Combination of Human and Computer Experts. In order to provide a badge ecosystem that allows many low-level badges, yet provides prestigious high-level ones, S2R opted to employ automated systems as well as human arbiters.
Indirect Standards Alignment - Align Assessment Activities to Standards: Create Measurable Learning Objectives: Internal Standards. The project developed and maintained its own standards in order to ensure that the silver and gold badges would continue to be scarce and prestigious and would represent true achievement of the competencies identified by their research with journalistic organizations.
Rubrics Are Used to Assess Artifacts - Use Rubrics: Rubrics Developed for Assessment for Specific Artifacts. As S2R’s badge system was fleshed out, an important component of maintaining consistent assessment across all the participating schools and sports centers was detailed rubrics, tailored to the type of artifacts students must generate to gain badges in each category.
Practices and Corresponding Principles for Motivating Learning
Role Recognition/Community Engagement - Recognize identities: Roles within a system and Engage with community: Involvement in Local community. The tracks of badges in the S2R program are named after the role that young people fill while earning the badges: journalist, producer, and coach. In addition, the tasks involved in filling these roles take students into their communities, covering sporting events in their schools, towns, and up to the London Olympics. This exemplifies two motivating principles identified by the DPD Project, both in motivating students by naming them as the role they want to fill, and by offering opportunities to do that journalistic work once they reach the appropriate level.
Privileges - Provide Privileges: Internships and Outside Value of Badges: Real-life Application of Knowledge. The top level badges are designed to unlock special opportunities, and part of the S2R team’s work involves arranging exclusive access to reporting from the sidelines at events, hopefully motivating young people to work steadily through the entire badge system.
Hierarchical use of badges - Provide Privileges: Peer Mentorship. S2R’s badge levels also fell under providing privileges, as this became the specific mechanism through which peer mentorship and access to special opportunities were selected. As mentioned in the assessment principles, S2R aims to allow high-level students to participate in awarding badges to their peers.
Scarcity of Badges - Competition: Scarcity of Badges. The requirements for gold-level badges are high enough that there will be relatively few students who earn them, preserving their prestige, and introducing an element of competition that may prove to motivate students who earn the medals they know will be rare.
Practices and Corresponding Principles for Studying Learning
Collecting and Providing Data: Research OF & WITH Badges and Research WITH & FOR Badges. One of the features of the S2R badge system that most significantly affects the ability to study learning within it is the amount of data generated through the use of the Makewaves platform. Cliff Manning and Lucy Neale both indicated that there is a strong need for research in order to provide evidence of the value S2R delivers to potential partners and employers.
The complexity of the S2R badge levels forced Makewaves to build a robust automatic badge issuing system with many potential triggers based on a range of social network activity and uploaded material. Cliff Manning says, “It’s forced us to stretch the technology a bit as well, so now we can do loads more than most badges require” (DPD Bloom Interview).
For research OF badges, S2R will be able to analyze the numbers of badges issued and quantify the activity leading up to students earning them. With the introduction of a new learning pathways feature, Badge Missions, even more data will be generated about students progress through the system.
This progress data enables possible study WITH & FOR badges, helping S2R to apply formative assessment to the system, taking note of trouble spots in order to improve S2R’s badging practices and provide evidence to support future system designs..
There were no formal plans to study badges and their effects in S2R’s initial proposal. However, Lucy Neale reports that DigitalMe’s BadgeTheUK initiative is in the process of commissioning a two year program of research to study (OF badges) how young people interact with badges online, how organizations can use badges to map learning programs and skills that they normally struggle to capture and display, and how employers react to badges (DPD Bloom Interview).
See how these principles started as specific practices in the context of S2R's planning on the Seed tab...
See how they were initially implemented on the Sprout tab...
In order to better showcase the process projects go through in translating their badge systems from design to implementation and formalization, the badges DPD Project tries to identify the big challenges each project faces. These challenges either occur within one area, while implementing practices to either recognize, assess, motivate or study learning. Or they occur across areas. Here is an account of how the Supporter To Reporter program addressed some major challenges facing their badge system.
Implementing a complex leveled hierarchy: (Recognizing, Assessing, and Motivating Learning)
S2R designed their medal system to allow students to progress through different levels of mastery in three different areas of journalism, targeting the roles of Journalist, Producer, and Coach. Moreover, they wanted to guide students through these badges along a pathway that would both allow students choice in pursuing the roles they desired and require that they gain some experience in all of the areas before they could be considered masters in any one of them. In addition, S2R designed the system to recognize deep enough commitment that the gold badges would be scarce, to match the highest tier students up with opportunities presented by reporting organizations and sports clubs.
In order to recognize achievement in such a complicated system, complicated assessments were required. One measure of the success of the S2R system became apparent as students began earning the available badges faster than Makewaves could roll out the materials to support offering and issuing the next level. The badges motivated students to move through the program enough that in one school, students organized a badge club on their own during lunchtime where students would help each other navigate the requirements of the badges they had yet to earn.
The difficulty S2R encountered in building out its badge program as fast as its most eager participants could move through it arose partly because the system aimed to integrate badges into an existing curriculum. This design implication is a major choice for badge projects, and sometimes is outside of the scope of the badge project itself. S2R felt that there was a lot of value in the program pre-badges and didn’t want to dilute it. At first, this seemed like a step ahead:
“We thought we had an advantage, because we had a program in place and it was just a case of creating badges to map to the program we were already delivering, but actually I think in hindsight that’s what’s made it really complicated, because if we just started with a blank piece of paper it would be a lot more simple” (DPD Bloom Interview)
In order to address the complexity of the badge system, and also to ensure it remains consistent across all the schools and sports clubs who implement it, S2R developed a wealth of materials to help participating schools and students get started with the program. These included teacher support packets, a learning pathway tool on Makewaves called Badge Missions, and a system design worksheet called Badge Canvas.
The teacher support resources includes instructions on setting up accounts and getting started with Makewaves as well as detailed information on each strand badge, including assessment rubrics that show what achievements and level of performance are expected for each level. The resource packets include some activity guides and worksheets students can complete as they move through the short activities. The activities proved to be one of the most popular elements of the program among the participating teachers.
Makewaves developed Badge Missions to help students and teachers navigate the badge system, guiding them through the activities along a learning pathway that shows them what they need to do next to earn the badge they are aiming for. They see a progress bar of their achievements along the way to earning a mission badge. Another component of the Badge Missions is a data tracking dashboard to show teachers an overview of their students’ progress through the mission on one screen.
As they attempted to understand and simplify their S2R badge system, team members developed a badge system design and analysis tool they called Badge Canvas, released through DigitalME in conjunction with its Badge the UK project.
Badge Canvas is a worksheet with spaces to fill in information about the badge system’s audience, components, pathways, resource requirements, and visual design. It reminds designers that badge systems require many considerations and ongoing commitment to function well as a whole. Badge Canvas helps people design an “implementation plan” for their badges, and it importantly slows people down on this process to help them think about the motivations, assessments, and truly badgeable achievements that underlie their system.
Reflecting on the difficulty that the complexity of their system design forced on the project, both Lucy Neale of DigitalME and Cliff Manning of Makewaves felt that the work they had done addressing this challenge was a net positive and that the experience has been invaluable. Cliff said:
“The complexity has made the delivery more challenging, but has opened up loads of opportunities for us” “One of the advantages of doing a more complex system from the start is that it’s given us a really good view of all the different ways in which you can do it and what some of the challenges are for managing it. It’s forced us to stretch the technology a bit as well, so now we can do loads more than most badges require.” (DPD Bloom Interview)
Gaining External Recognition: (Recognizing Learning)
An important part of the S2R design was for the badges to be valuable for the students who would earn them. From the beginning, Makewaves and DigitalME hoped to build a network of sports and journalism organizations, as well as higher education institutions and other employers who would recognize the badges officially to ensure that students would be able to present the badges to gain opportunities in later education and jobs. Their partners have told them this would be valuable: “Both students and teachers have said that endorsement by industry and media representatives would make the badges more appealing and provide more perceived weight in terms of credentials.” (HASTAC Q&A)
S2R encountered a problem when talking to sports and journalistic stakeholders that will likely become familiar to badge projects in the early years of using the technology: “It’s a bit of a vicious cycle.. in that the partners we’ve spoken to, media organizations as an example of who would be ideal to endorse the badges, want to see young people going through the program and earning the badges before they would endorse it, but similarly the schools want that endorsement piece in place before they would often times engage with the project.” (DPD Bloom Interview)
In short, they found that industry partners hoped for a proof of the value of the badge system before committing to endorsement. The other partners in the system, the schools, didn’t want to dedicate limited time and resources to programs with uncertain value. Additionally, schools that did participate found it difficult to arrange the actual reporting experiences for students on their own.
S2R came across a path to move through this roadblock by engaging with education centers based in smaller local sports clubs. A new grant program is funding the application of the S2R program in these clubs, to provide young people with local hubs that help them access reporting opportunities. In some cases, the sports clubs are big names in their local communities that their student audience already cared for greatly.
One example partner is the Oval, a venerated cricket ground in south London. The Oval will run the badge program, culminating in a reporting opportunity using student journalists at a professional cricket test. The local events still promise high stakes action between sports clubs young people cared about, adding value to the program. These local organizations had more freedom to provide opportunities for students and cooperate with their neighborhood schools, so S2R could gain greater headway with them than with national organizations at an early stage.
“The process of designing a badge ecosystem has led us to develop organizational best practices in this area [badges]. We have created a new Badge Design Canvas Tool that aims to take organizations through a supported badge design process to help them create a robust roadmap for their badges. This canvas was based on our DML design experience and includes feedback from the DML community and Mozilla team. It is licensed under Creative Commons and available online for people to use: http://www.digitalme.co.uk/badgecanvas/”. (HASTAC Q&A)
“We will roll out S2R medals to 12 sports clubs across the UK and 80 schools connected to these clubs. Over 800 young people will work through the program and get the chance to apply their skills at professional matches at the sports clubs. The practitioners at the sports clubs will be trained to deliver the program and issue badges, enabling us to roll out the program regionally in a supported way. This project focuses on increasing speaking and listening attainment in the most disadvantaged young people and will provide us with more evidence of the impact of badges for learning. We have also launched the badge system into the Makewaves community of 3500 schools with a “Report on Your Sports Day” campaign to help schools get started.” (HASTAC Q&A)